It’s been another busy year across the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Omaha District, with many significant accomplishments taking place during 2019. The District closed out the fiscal year Sept. 30 with a $1.4 billion program, one of the largest the district has ever managed, surpassing last year’s total of $1.29 billion. That included more than $61 million in civil works, almost $400 million in military missions, $359 million in special projects and $386 million in environmental missions.
This year’s projects also included $113 million worth of work at 20 different levees in response to record flooding. Repairs at the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, North Carolina, ammunition depot, the installation of the Zebra Mussel System at Gavins Point, North Dakota, and the work at Fort Harrison, Montana, are just a few of the other endeavors that took place in the District this fiscal year.
This has allowed the District to be involved in many projects and programs across its footprint, said Omaha District Commander Col. John Hudson.
“We are probably one of two districts that have the depth and breadth for the enterprise that can do anything from rapid response to fuels MILCON to fighting the flooding,” he said. “The depth and breadth of Omaha District is truly astounding.”
Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point
When disasters occur, USACE teams and other resources are mobilized from across the country to assist local districts and offices to deliver response missions. Last year, District civilian and military personnel deployed to Hurricane Florence ravaged North Carolina, to aid in repairs at MOTSU ammunition depot. MOTSU is the largest ammunition port in the nation and is the Defense Department's primary East Coast deep-water ammunition shipping point. Roughly 85% of the ammunition used in U.S. combat operations is processed through the wharves on the installation.
Surprisingly, the damage at MOTSU wasn’t wind related in relation to Florence, but flooding from torrential rain, said Tim Gouger, project manager for the MOTSU repairs.
“They had a lot of water. It ended up scouring out several critical infrastructure areas that needed to be repaired in a very timely manner because it was affecting its national defense mission,” he said.
Work included repairing one of two wharf fire suppression systems, as well as embankment repairs for roadways and a rail line.
Gouger said the repairs were a success for the Corps for several reasons.
“It took us about six weeks to complete construction. Not only we were able to get construction repairs in timeframes to meet or exceed expectations, but we also de-obligated $2.3 million of the $7.5 million award,” he explained. “While we returned that under run to the Savannah District, which the lead for the repairs at MOTSU, we also did more work than was originally scoped for that amount of money.” Savannah District was.
The success of the efforts at MOTSU, like many Corps projects, was in great part due to Omaha District's commitment to help others in their time of most need, said Matthew Krajewski, Readiness Branch Chief.
“The dedication of our district employees to support contingency operations is commendable and wonderful to witness; but we also cannot forget the Omaha District employees who took up the mantle and continued to carry out our ‘regular’ program execution during these disasters,” he said. “It is a combination of these people that make the Omaha District the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leader that it is.”
Zebra Mussels System at Gavins Point
Another success this year is the work done to combat zebra mussel impacts at the Gavins Point Dam, which spans the Missouri River. In 2015, zebra mussels were discovered on the dam spillway. By the summer of 2016, mussels were causing blockages impacting the power plant generator cooling systems.
“In 2016, the power plant started noticing problems with the mussels clogging the cooling water piping at Gavins Point,” said Robin Puskar, Omaha District Hydropower Program Manager. “There are three generating units at Gavins Point and each of the units has generator air coolers and thrust bearing oil coolers. Plant personnel found that the coolers needed to be cleaned more frequently to keep the units cool. Historically, the cooler piping was cleaned once every three years, but we’ve gone to cleaning each unit at least twice a year. This causes forced outages to take the units down to clean the pipes. When a unit is down, we aren't producing power.”
To help combat the problem, the Corps of Engineers installed a $564,000 UV disinfection light system that delivers a lethal dose of UV light to kill the zebra mussel larvae before they can attach to the critical generator components. This system is being used on the Colorado River but is the first of its kind to be installed on the Missouri River. According to Puskar, continued cleaning and attrition of adult mussels over their three-year lifespan will hopefully eliminate the infestation from the Gavins Point cooling water system.
Initial results from the UV light system are positive.
“We powered it up in March. We didn’t find any mussels growing on the downstream side of the UV system in August. At this point, it seems to be effective in treating the mussels,” Puskar said.
The District plans to continue monitoring the effectiveness of the system and make adjustments based on changing environmental factors.
Because zebra mussels were recently identified on components at the Corp's Big Bend and Fort Randall Dams in South Dakota, the work at Gavins Point is valuable in developing a District zebra mussel mitigation strategy.
“It’s been a huge issue and we are hopeful that this system will be an effective tool in combating this invasive species. The lessons learned at Gavins Point are going to be very helpful to us at the other hydro powered dams,” said Puskar. “There are six dams on the river and we are figuring out what works and how best to calibrate the system depending on different conditions. We want to be proactive and this system is helping us do that.”
The UV system will provide ecological and economic benefits in significant cost savings as it will only require $32,000 in annual maintenance, compared to the $112,000 in additional funding needed for 2017 and 2018 to pay for additional cleaning.
Fort Harrison, Helena Montana
Another major project ramping up this year is taking place at the Fort Harrison Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in Helena, Montana. The District is in the beginning stages of a $250 to 300 million project to renovate and expand the VA Hospital at Fort Harrison.
The work will incorporate multiple facilities and phases, according to Tom Mitchell, Omaha District VA Program Manager.
“There’s a parking structure that’s going to be built for about 500 cars, and there are some physical security upgrades that have to happen at the campus. We’re also going to build a new acute inpatient care facility which is a surgical suite with intensive care units—that is going to be a three story, 80,000 square foot structure as an addition to the existing hospital, plus about 130,000 square feet of renovation in the existing hospital,” he said. “It’s a series of different things that have to be built.”
Mitchell said before any physical work can take place, there is a lot of planning and coordinating that goes in to a project like this.
“We started work on this project in May of 2018—for the last year we have been acquiring design services for architect engineering. We advertised and awarded a design contract, and we are in the process of awarding a technical services contract which will be support for us since it’s in Helena, Montana. By February of 2020, we should be able to start the design of the facility,” Mitchell said. “We don’t expect to have any blades in the ground until about 2023.”
The work at Fort Harrison is scheduled to be completed by 2030. Part of the reason for the long completion schedule is that the hospital will stay operational during the construction.
“The hospital will remain active the entire time, which is why it takes a considerable length of time to do these things, because they will still be seeing and treating patients while we are in there,” he said.
Mitchell also said there is also an additional project at Fort Harrison that will need to be completed prior to all of the other major work at Fort Harrison.
“In addition, we have a smaller project to take all of the energy systems that are currently on that installation and consolidate them all into one energy center,” he said. “It’s a separately funded project that we will start design on around the beginning of the year. That project has to be completed before we start construction on the major projects. So we have several things going on at once.”
Adams and Denver County General Investigations
Earlier this year, Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commanding General and 54th U.S. Army Chief of Engineers, signed the recommended plan to implement flood risk management solutions along Weir Gulch and Harvard Gulch in Adams and Denver County, Colorado, and restore aquatic, wetland, and riparian habitat along the South Platte River. The signing of the Adams and Denver County Chief's Report moved the project forward to Congress where it is waiting for authorization and appropriation.
The approved plan, if authorized and appropriated by Congress, would restore nearly 450 acres of critical riparian and wetland habitat along the South Platte River corridor, while also removing approximately 460 homes and businesses from the one percent Annual Chance Exceedance (100-year) floodplain. In addition, voluntary nonstructural flood risk management measures would be available to approximately 175 structures that would substantially reduce the flood risk for these homes and businesses. Recreational features were also integrated into the project to enhance the communities’ ownership and protection of the waterways throughout the Denver Metro.
SECTION 594 (ND) & 595 (MT) Environmental Infrastructure Assistance Programs
Environmental Infrastructure Programs provide “assistance” to non-Federal interests in the form of reimbursement funding, for design, construction, or design and construction of water-related EI and resource protection and development projects. These projects include wastewater treatment and related facilities, combined sewer overflow; water supply, treatment, storage, and distribution; environmental restoration, and surface water resource protection and development.
In FY19, the Omaha District Civil Works Branch executed agreements and obligated reimbursement contracts for eight new Section 595 (Montana) projects with total assistance of $2.1 million, and one new Section 594 (North Dakota) project with total assistance of $1.2 million. The Montana sponsors included Black Eagle-Cascade County Water & Sewer District, City of Plentywood, Central Montana Regional Water Authority, Power-Teton County Water & Sewer District, Lockwood Water & Sewer District, South Wind Water & Sewer District, City of Shelby, and Clancy Water & Sewer District. The North Dakota sponsor was the City of Center. In addition to these nine new projects, there were also 11 additional prior year Section 594 and 595 projects that were managed, which included reviewing, approving and processing reimbursement payments to the sponsors.
With Fiscal Year 2019 in the books, next year looks to be an even bigger one for the District. The program budget for 2020 is more than $1.6 billion—funding major projects like the Weapons Storage and Maintenance Facility at Warren Air Force Base, the Attack Battalion Maintenance Hangar at Fort Carson, the High Altitude Research Laboratory (HARL) at Pikes Peak Summit, work at the Cadet Field House at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, Hydropower Excitation Systems and Governors, as well as improvements at Lake Cunningham in Omaha, Neb.